Devante Smith-Pelly

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Ovechkin on buying homeless man clothes: ‘Every human can do something’

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Every now and then, an athlete will warm your heart with a random act of kindness.

In the case of a kind act by Alex Ovechkin in Edmonton, it came down to warmth. As a local cafe first revealed, Ovechkin was seen giving a homeless man clothing. (Ovechkin later revealed that he went to a store to buy the man a sweater, coat, and hat.)

Ovechkin seemed almost a bit sheepish in answering questions about giving the man some clothes in a dire situation, noting that he believes “every human can do something” to help others.

Here’s the original tweet:

As the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson notes, Ovechkin’s act of kindness is reminiscent of what Nail Yakupov once did for an Edmonton local in need:

Uplifting stuff. Don’t be surprised if Ovechkin gets a few extra cheers tonight as his Washington Capitals face the Oilers in Edmonton.

In more mundane Caps news, the line blender is-a-whirring:

This stands as a fantastic opportunity for Devante Smith-Pelly.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Capitals would like to see Tom Wilson score a few more goals this season

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Tom Wilson is the classic “love him or hate him” type of player depending on which team he happens to be playing for.

If he is playing on your team, you probably like him. If he is not … you probably hate him.

Wilson has spent the first four years of his career playing in the Washington Capitals’ bottom-six, playing an extremely physical brand of hockey that can sometimes come close to crossing the line. He is also a very good defensive player and penalty killer, a fact that can sometimes get overlooked due to his style of play and the punishing hits.

With the Capitals roster getting ripped apart around the edges this summer due to salary cap restrictions there are a couple of openings in the team’s top-six forward group thanks to the departures of veteran forwards Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson.

Wilson would like to take one of those spots, but he knows he needs to add more consistent offense to do it.

The Capitals would like to see that from him as well.

Here is coach Barry Trotz talking about what he wants to see from Wilson this season, via Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post.

“Like all our young players, we’ve been trying to continually have growth with Tom,” Trotz said. “The next step in his evolution — he has that physical element, he’s reliable, he can kill penalties, he can play late-game situations, he’s developed that — now he’s got to find that offensive side. We’ve got to get more production out of Tom Wilson. We’re going to need some more goals out of him. He’s got to get into double digits this year.

He went on to say little improvements like that from players like Wilson are how the team can chip away and deal with the players they lost over the summer, just getting a few extra goals from players that are still on the roster.

Wilson’s production has been incredibly consistent during his career and has averaged about seven goals and about 18 total points per 82 games. He has never scored more than seven goals in a season, the mark he has reached in each of the past two seasons. He did add three goals in the first-round of the Capitals’ series win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, including a two-goal effort in their Game 4 win in Toronto.

The Capitals are going to look like a very different team this season after losing Williams, Johansson, Karl Alzner, Nate Schmidt and Kevin Shattenkirk over the summer and only bringing in Devante Smith-Pelly and Alex Chiasson on a tryout deal. Still, with a core that includes Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, Andre Burakovsky John Carlson, Dmitry Orlov, Matt Niskanen and what is probably one of the top-three goalies on the planet they should still be a fierce contender in the Eastern Conference.

They may not bring home a third consecutive Presidents’ Trophy, but they are not going away just yet, either.

Alex Chiasson will join Capitals on tryout contract

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After the Calgary Flames decided to not extend him a qualifying offer this summer, veteran forward Alex Chiasson became an unrestricted free agent. He remained unsigned throughout the entire offseason but will get an opportunity to make the Washington Capitals roster when he joins the team in training camp on a professional tryout contract.

The team announced his tryout deal on Saturday morning.

Chiasson, 26, appeared in 81 games for the Flames during the 2016-17 season, scoring 12 goals and adding 12 assists. He has also spent time with the Dallas Stars and Ottawa Senators in his career, scoring 50 goals in 320 games.

It has been a slow offseason for the Capitals as the salary cap has taken a lot of depth from a team that won back-to-back Presidents’ Trophies. The only real addition to the lineup has been Devante Smith-Pelly. Because of those subtractions — combined with the lack of moves to replace them — there is an opening in the Capitals lineup for a player like Chiasson to potentially step in.

Earlier this week the team signed defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka to a tryout contract. The Capitals lost Kevin Shattenkirk, Karl Alzner and Nate Schmidt off of their blue line this summer.

Looking to make the leap: Nathan Walker

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This post is part of Capitals Day on PHT…

Should Nathan Walker jump to the NHL this season, it’ll be a significant one.

Washington’s third-round pick at the 2014 draft, Walker would be in line for his big league debut if he makes the team out of training camp — but that’s not the only milestone at hand.

Should the speedy forward get the call, he’ll also become the first-ever Australian to play in the NHL. Heady stuff for a 23-year-old who, just six years ago, was playing for the Sydney Ice Dogs.

Walker’s rise has been a grind. He logged time in the Czech League, the USHL and the ECHL before emerging as a valuable contributor for Washington’s AHL affiliate in Hershey. Last year, he racked up 11 goals and 23 points in 58 games for the Bears — and another six in 12 playoff games — while emerging as a high-energy guy that liked to finish his checks.

More to the point, Walker’s a pest.

Despite standing just 5-foot-8 and weight 186 pounds, the Aussie a real edge to his game. It was certainly on display last preseason when, in a game against Montreal, Walker fought Andrew Shaw after Shaw tattooed Connor Hobbs into the boards. Walker would go on to scrap three more times for Hershey last year, one of the club’s more active pugilists.

That style of play will work to Walker’s advantage, as Washington’s thinned-out forward group has spots up for grabs — especially in the bottom six. Justin Williams, Marcus Johansson and Daniel Winnik are all gone, which means potential promotions for the likes of Tom Wilson, Brett Connolly and others. Wilson and Winnik were wingers on last year’s fourth line — centered by Jay Beagle — and Walker looks to have the inside track on a replacement spot.

That said, there will be competition. Devante Smith-Pelly was signed in free agency. Riley Barber, who played alongside Walker in Hershey and made his NHL debut last year, is in the mix. Farmhands Chandler Stephenson and Liam O’Brien will battle as well.

But the Caps like Walker, enough to have signed him to a two-year extension this summer. In announcing the deal, GM Brian MacLellan suggested Walker could very well make history this season.

“Walker has a good chance of playing,” MacLellan said, per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “These guys can all come up, and there’s just going to be more opportunity for them to play this year.”

Capitals believe Smith-Pelly has untapped potential

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The Washington Capitals have undergone some major changes this offseason, losing Justin Williams, Karl Alzner, Kevin Shattenkirk and Marcus Johansson as they try to stay under the salary cap while also keeping their core together. New contracts for Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky and T.J. Oshie not only forced them to part ways with the aforementioned players, but also limited  what they were able to do when it came to adding new faces.

One player they did bring in was forward Devante Smith-Pelly in the hopes that he can become the player that he was expected to be earlier in his career.

“I think there’s some untapped potential,” general manager Brian MacLellan said last week, via CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I think maybe conditioning played a factor in some of it. I think we’re going to work with him to see if we can get a little bit of that back and create a player that we can use.”

A second-round pick by the Ducks in 2010, he has shown flashes of promise as a power forward in the NHL but hasn’t always put it all together for a full season. It started to look like he might blossom late in the 2015-16 season following a trade to the New Jersey Devils when he scored eight goals and added five assists in the final 18 games of the regular season. But he came back last season and once again struggled, scoring just four goals in 53 games.

At 25 and with more than 266 games in the NHL on his resume Smith-Pelly is past the point of being a prospect. But he still has some talent and it’s not unheard of for players like him to excel in a new situation. He is certainly going to a team that will be able to put plenty of talent around him.